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English 102 | Online

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Primary sources can be

  • accounts by an eyewitness or the first recorder of an event
  • data obtained through original research
  • creative works such as poetry, music, or art
  • artifacts such as pottery, furniture, and buildings.

Secondary sources are works that

  • analyze
  • evaluate
  • interpret
  • criticize

Peer-Reviewed Journals

  • Purpose: to convey academic research.

  • Audience: educated people in the discipline, typically researchers themselves. Scientists; college and university professors

  • Conventions: highly structured organization; contains footnotes or works cited pages; published after review by experts in the field; technical or specialized language.

  • Trouble-Spots: content may be difficult for a lay-person to understand.

Popular Journals (Magazines & Newspapers)

  • Purpose: to inform or to entertain.

  • Audience: general.

  • Conventions: brief articles; contains easily-accessible language; usually written by journalists or professional writers.

  • Trouble-Spots: may not provide full context for the studies cited within articles.

Trade Journals

  • Purpose: to convey research in a simplified form for practitioners.

  • Audience: specialized: professional workers in a field.

  • Conventions: contains some technical language or jargon but easily accessible by a college-educated audience; short and concise articles.

  • Trouble-Spots: some jargon terms may be unfamiliar to a lay-person; assumes common knowledge that may be not common to a reader. Press releases often indexed as trade journal articles.